“In order to live, man must act; in order to act, he must make choices; in order to make choices, he must define a code of values; in order to define a code of values, he must know what he is and where he is-i.e., he must know his own nature (including his means of knowledge) and the nature of the universe in which he acts-i.e., he needs metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, which means: philosophy.”
“When we come to normative abstractions-to the task of defining moral principals and projecting what man ought to be-the psycho-epistemological process required is still harder…An exhaustive moral treatise defining moral values, with a long list of virtues to be practiced, will not do it; it will not convey what the ideal man would be like and how he would act; no mind can deal with so immense a sum of abstractions…There is no way to integrate such a sum without projecting an actual human figure-an integrated concretization that illuminates the theory and makes it intelligible…
…Art is the indispensable medium for the communication of a moral ideal.”
Ayn Rand, The Romantic Manifesto
When I was first introduced to Heathenism, I read the Eddas and a few Sagas, some respectable, academic publications and the Edred Thorsson books, and that’s about it. It never occurred to me at the time that I might learn something about the religion by reading a modern novel or even a comic book.
Something I’ve come to realize only recently (and maybe I’m a little slow) is that if ours was originally an oral tradition, then the myths were never intended to be set in stone. They were meant to be told and re-told. The myths were meant to live and flow and grow with each retelling, to evolve with the culture and bring joy and meaning to peoples lives. Our myths were never meant to be cooped up in musty old books.
Since I began to loosen up on the historical accuracy of the books I choose, I feel as if I’ve rediscovered some of the most inspiring stories ever written. It is only now that I feel, for the first time, the actual presence of the Gods in my life. With each new version of the myths I read, I feel the Gods growing stronger within me. I see them take on shape and solidity and definition. I watch them come alive. I know I’ve found something truly special when I find the Gods reading over my shoulder.
These modern retellings often contradict the elder lore. So what? The older stories as often contradict each other. The lesson to learn here is that each version is, at best, only one vision of a myth. None is perfect, none is any more or less sacred than any other, except to the degree that the story rings true to you.